The Sunday Magazine

Stratford shut down during COVID-19, but Colm Feore keeps rehearsing

This season, much acclaimed Canadian actor, Colm Feore, was set to play Shakespeare’s Richard III at the Stratford Festival in a sold-out show. But, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the town and the festival have shut down. Colm Feore keeps on rehearsing, though, even if it’s just by himself.

'It’s never for naught. The study of Shakespeare ... has been enormously soul-fulfilling and useful.'

Colm Feore plays Richard, Duke of Gloucester in William Shakespeare's play Richard III at the Stratford Festival. (David Cooper/Stratford Festival)

In the spring of 1953, Alec Guinness took to the stage under a tent and wowed the first Stratford Festival audiences as Shakespeare's Richard III. 

This season, much-acclaimed Canadian actor Colm Feore was set to play that same role in another inaugural performance at Stratford — this time to open the 2020 season and the brand new Tom Patterson Theatre. 

The play had completely sold out. But, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the town and the festival have shut down. 

It's not the first time a plague has beset Shakespearean productions. In the summer of 1606, King Lear and Macbeth both went dark when sickness forced the Globe Theatre in London to lock its doors to eager patrons. 

Feore keeps on rehearsing, though, even if it's just by himself. 

"It's never for naught. The study of Shakespeare, I have always found, has been enormously soul-fulfilling and useful. And so I use it in the same way that [Pablo] Casals stabbed the cello into the floor of a morning and played a few cello suites. Just to wake up the little grey cells in the fingers," he told The Sunday Edition's host Michael Enright. 

But he admits it's frustrating.

'What more can we do?'

"Even those of us who meet each other on safe walks, masked and gloved, around the town are looking at each other saying, 'I promise to stay ready, will you promise to stay ready?' … What more can we do?" 

While Feore and his seasoned contemporaries are sitting idle, for them it's not quite as dire as for some of the younger actors who were poised to perform at Stratford this season.

"I feel slightly more at ease because I've got more experience. I've had a chance," he said. "I worry a great deal about people who are new to this, and youngsters whose big breaks were happening this season and [who] were playing in great plays." 

But, the show must go on.

"Sooner or later this is going to happen. We're going to open, because we've got a $100-million-dollar theatre down there that's 98 per cent ready," he said. "We've got stuff to show. We just need to know that it's safe to show it."

Click 'listen' above to hear the full interview.

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